Congratulations, Vancouver

I hate sports, but I at least pay attention to hockey; my team is the Chicago Blackhawks. This goes back to NHLPA Hockey `96 on the Sega Genesis and my brother going “you have to play this — when someone takes a hit, they lay down on the ice and bleed” — and thus, “Hockey night in Manville” (the loft in this house where he and I have lived at various periods) was born. We’d turn off all the penalties, crank up the odds of starting a fight and then play sloppy hockey for shots. Chicago was my team because they were the heaviest checkers and let’s face it — Chicago had a truly wicked line up at the time.

This year, Chicago came out of nowhere to tie up the playoffs against Vancouver leading into this evening, even scoring a 5-0 shut-out against the Canucks. The rivalry between the two teams is almost something you can reach out and touch, because historically, Chicago has a tendency to take Vancouver out of the running (and then go on to suck for the rest of the series, except for last year, when they actually won the Stanley Cup). This year, the expectation was that Vancouver would walk away with it — they’ve just been playing a better game and Chicago traded away most of the players that won the cup last year.

There was no shame in the loss for Chicago, though — they finally scored two minutes before the end of the third period and took the game into overtime — a one nothing shut-out for Vancouver would have been seriously demoralizing. But this is why I like hockey — if it had been a basketball game, either team could have been up by a bazillion points and with two minutes left, it still would have been anybody’s game. It’s graceful, it’s violent, and a good, defensive game (as was played this evening) is just as exciting as a high-scoring game because you wind up with so much skill on display. The great controversy this time out was Vancouver’s decision to leave their goalie in place in spite of the fact that Chicago continued to advance, a decision that is now completely vindicated by history.

And EVERYBODY got a better game out of the deal — no doubt the Canucks would have been a lot happier if they’d have beaten Chicago early on, as was expected. Instead, they had to fight for every goal leading up to that last shot in overtime tonight. From here, Vancouver goes on to play San Jose, I believe (and I go back to largely ignoring hockey, unless Vancouver wins the Stanley Cup, in which case I’ll cheer for them).

Much though I would have preferred to see Chicago win tonight, sometimes you’ve just gotta be happy for the other guy.

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